A National Parking Resources Network? Yes – Here are the What, Why and How


A National Parking Resources Network? Yes – Here are the What, Why and How

 More than 13 years of my research suggest, as I wrote in Part 1, that now, more than ever, the parking industry needs a “revolution” to be comparable with today’s other customer service industries. There are options to initiate this revolution, but one stands out: – a robust web parking portal (RWPP) infrastructure. 
First, such a structure can network all national parking spaces as resources. Once networked, it will be easier to initiate virtual parking services – an opportunity to follow the business models of other industries that use the latest software technology.
Resources related to airline, water, electricity, telecommunications and cellphone services fall under this category. One can access them anytime from anywhere at a pre-determined but reasonable price. 
Second, there are unexplored areas of economic growth and new job opportunities in the newly defined virtual parking services, with online software in collaboration with sensors, electronics, global positioning system (GPS) and geographic information system (GIS). 
Third, training and degree courses detailing RWPP can also be initiated for colleges and universities for high-level education and training.
Fourth, the parking industry, already a $100 billion industry, has the potential scope to double that with the new approaches of virtual parking.
Fifth, virtual parking phenomena will generate huge customer data and new revenue. The new parking paradigm could be on par for new applications strategy. 
Today’s Challenge for the Parking Industry 
Our lifestyles have changed in the last few decades. We do everything online through the Internet – banking, shopping, social interaction, working from home, product advertisement and bill payment. It is a challenge for the parking industry to join the major leagues. 
The first step of the revolution is to transform the industry from a hardware configuration to a software configuration. The second step is to enable parking applications to be written by third parties. 
Enabling capabilities of a robust web parking portal are: 
Parking Spaces and Wayfinding System Drivers can view space availability online in real-time, locating the cheapest and closest parking space, and the best route to it from Google or MapQuest’s direction-finding.
Online Reservation Priceline.com, Hotel.com and others are designed to help make online reservations and handle transactions for airline, car rental and hotel. A one-click solution for parking reservations is missing on this paradigm – the bargaining power of consumers.
Mobility A national account or frequent parking passes should enable drivers to park in any space anywhere in the nation, irrespective of on- or off-street or private or public space, eliminating meter- or location-specific parking. 
Global Positioning System (GPS) and Geographical Information System (GIS) Swedish Volvo and U.S. Ford manufacturers have been testing an ingenious concept of autonomous parking using GPS and different sensing devices. Using the technology, the driver can be relieved of time to find a free parking space. This adds more reasoning for the virtual parking revolution.
Cloud-Based Computing Smartphones and smartcars are getting smarter and smarter. Cloud-based computing is being supported for all such devices, irrespective of the device’s operating system. With such capabilities, virtual parking applications can explode.
Workload Sharing Via Web An airline’sboarding pass and bag-checking servicesare examples of workload sharing between passenger and airline. This is a good business model for the parking industry to reduce costs. 
Software Emulations Many parking hardware functions can be emulated with software to derive the needed parking building blocks. The parking industry can take full advantage of such opportunities, as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) integrated in the data network (e.g., Vonage and Skype) did for voice calls. 
The above highlight phenomena of the future parking industry. I contend that software building blocks, with a robust Internet architecture, will form the foundation of a RWPP to manage traffic, reduce air pollution, economize natural resources, balance parking revenues, and eliminate cash misappropriations – basic elements of the national transportation service.
What Are Expected Changes? 
Meterless and Cashless Parking (Also Called ‘Soft Meter’) Street meters (more than 8 million and counting) are robust, but expensive and inflexible. Collecting money from these meters is also inefficient and subject to fraud. The latest GPS (in-car or in smartphone) and embedded GIS can broadcast its location with high precision. 
One can drive to the spot and activate the parking privilege either by calling an 800 number or clicking buttons on the smartphone using the IT infrastructure of the “smart city” at an incremental cost without street meters. You can get a daylong pass from the city, say, and then shop and park in a place convenient to your destination while shopping or touring the city, irrespective of meter location. 
Sharing Parking Space There is new phenomenon reported in the media – sharing a parking space. The robust web parking portal can be an effective tool to make it happen. Driverless parking will accelerate acceptance of such features in the future, mostly in congested garages.
Virtual Gate Replacing the PARCS A parking access and revenue control system (PARCS) uses different options, such as an gate arm, ticket dispenser, credit card, automatic vehicle identification, and radio frequency identification tags, increasing traffic during the peak hours. Moreover, PARC systems are vendor-specific and take a long time to set up and reconfigure. Virtual gates will eliminate hardware requirements with a software configuration of PARCS. 
Pre-Payment Online payment for reserving airline, hotel, cars and other purchase has become the norm today. Mobile payment and the “electronic wallet” could be options for parking. Apple, Amazon, Google and many more are new players in payment integration of all virtual assets such as airline miles, cellphone minutes, loyalty points and rebates.
Step-Up Rates: Instead of fines, step-up rates can be introduced during peak hours and for special events. Online verification and authentication are possible for collections once a subscription account is established. Revoking parking privileges for unpaid subscriptions, along with reinstatement fees, may be better than random fines.
Benefits of the Revolutionary Infrastructure:
One-Click Solution Renting a car comes with options to park at a place of your destination similar to renting a GPS device to find the destination from Point A to Point B. The parking wayfinding system also will tell you the available parking space, its rate and how to get to the garage close to your destination – for one-click solution using Priceline.com or similar websites.
Efficient Use of Existing Parking Spaces All private and public spaces are fragmented nationwide. In reality, all parking spaces are to be declared as national resources, with private and public cooperation. A national standard to introduce uniformity, rather than city-specific, is long overdue
Pay as You Use There is no way to define one-size-fits-all parking scenario.Rates should depend on the parking zone, time of the day and supply/demand. Customers should have the flexibility to pick and choose – an attraction for repeat customers. Rates could be adjusted instantly with “soft meters” for many innovative parking services and applications for generating new revenue.
Whether the parking industry is ready or not, society is ready for such a revolution. The parking industry can be of immense value to the public and provide a better and cheaper service if it can imitate the business model exemplified above. 
Amalendu Chatterjee, VP-Technology at EximSoft International, can be reached at amalendu.chatterjee@eximsoftint.com.

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Amalendu Chatterjee
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